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Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest!

Welcome, everyone, to the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest! I'm so excited that this day has finally come :)

Be sure to check out all of the entries. I'll repost the list at the bottom.

ANNOUNCEMENT:
Charity and I will pick our top 5 short stories from the entries. Those five stories and links to them will be posted HERE on Monday, the 21st. Then YOU will have a chance to vote. I'll have a poll on the sidebar. ANYONE can vote from the options. Voting will be open through Thursday, the 24th, and the winner will be announced on Friday. The winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card, courtesy of Charity.

Here's a reminder of the guidelines:
  1. On March 16, post a short story around 750 words, no more than 1000, in any genre you like.
  2. Read and give a critique for the person before and after you in the Linky List (and as many others as you can/want to). When you critique: a) find at least two things that really work, and b) at least two suggestions for how it can be tightened or improved.  
  3. (Optional) When you post on March 16, list one or two (online) journals where you plan to submit your piece after making revisions.

Regarding my post specifically, I want to thank you in advance for reading. I'm not great at the short story. This has been a difficult exercise for me.

Also, I STINK!! at titling things. Any suggestions on a better title would be greatly appreciated!

Please be aware that I'm not happy with how this turned out. There should be plenty in this story to critique :) But because of this—and because I haven't had much time to find places—I'm not planning on submitting this story right away. However, if you're looking for places, the Texas Observer is holding a short story contest.

If you have a longer critique, or want to discuss anything in more depth, feel free to email me at rlconnoly01 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Finally, again, be sure to stop by everyone else. I'll post the list again below my story.

Thanks!

_______________________

Daughter's Departure 

Aurelia’s hands gripped her knees. Knees together. Back straight. Maintain the pleasant, soft face. Almost smile. She watched as her mother evaluated her posture. Aurelia received a tiny nod of approval. She listened while her father concluded the final arrangements for her future as if he were conducting a business transaction.

The foreign gentleman dropped a bag of coins onto the table. The thud marked the seal of the transaction. “This is only the beginning. I will send the rest when we arrive at my estate.” The gentleman turned to her and flashed a grin from beneath his mustache. Men in her town never grew mustaches. They considered them messy, dirty, a product of laziness. Aurelia adjusted the pleasant look for faux-interest and lowered her eyes.

Light danced from the ring on her finger. After the gentleman’s arrival, negotiations had led to the wedding a mere fortnight later. The ceremony had happened so quickly that Aurelia still felt dazed. The thin band, now encircling on her left ring finger, bore great significance in the gentleman’s home country, where it had belonged to a princess or a queen or someone. Now it belonged to her.

But who had she become? The wife of a foreigner? The gentleman’s chivalrous demeanor impressed her, but his personality remained a mystery. In recent days, he had spoken of business and promises of the future, though had revealed little of himself. What were his fears? What foods did he eat at home? What was his mother like? Any time she had tried to ask, her mother had accused her of interrogation. She knew nothing. She had once found the gentleman’s country on a map and knew it to be far away. She knew no more.

“We must be leaving soon,” the gentleman said.

Aurelia raised her head. “Do I have time to say goodbye to Martina?”

“Of course.”

She stood and smoothed the fabric over her corseted waist. With a nod of thanks, she exited the room. Once out of sight, she picked up her skirt and dashed up the stairs two at a time as she and her sister had always done.

The door stood ajar, but Aurelia still knocked. Her wide skirt rustled against the door as she slipped inside. She sat on the bed and took her sister’s hand.

“Are you going now?” Martina asked. The words wheezed through her tightened throat.

“Soon.” Aurelia squeezed her sister’s hand. “And then you’ll be all better.”

“But you won’t be here when I’m well.”

“I’ll come to visit.”

“It’s very far…” Martina rolled away, coughing.

Aurelia rubbed Martina’s back until the fit subsided. “Don’t you worry. You’ll see me again soon.” She hoped the good Lord would not strike her for her lie.

“I’ll miss you.”

Aurelia leaned over and kissed her sister’s forehead. Her lips felt the heat before they reached the skin. Aurelia allowed herself a moment’s rest there, holding back the tears. When she felt composed, she pulled away, and wiped away Martina’s feverish perspiration from her own lips.

“I’ll visit so often,” Aurelia said, “you’ll get sick of me and ask me never to return.”

“If only that were possible.”

Aurelia told her sister of her love and affection, and fled through the door. She hadn’t realized her departure would be so difficult for her, but her family had no other options. Aurelia’s marriage to the foreign gentleman and the money associated with it gave her family a chance to improve their position. Her father could travel again for his business. Her sister could get the medicine she needed. Her family needed her more now than when she had darned socks and patched the sheets. They needed her more now than when she had made dinner for four from two potatoes and some water. She was worth more to them gone than living under their roof.

Aurelia straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, and descended the stairs. She found her parents and the gentleman awaiting her.

“The carriage is packed,” the gentleman said. “We must be on our way.”

She hugged her mother. Despite Aurelia’s words to Martina, she feared she may never see them again. Her father kissed her cheek.

The gentleman offered his hand. She took it with a slight bow of her head. He guided her through the door. The recent rain had made the cobblestones slick. The sunlight glared against the shiny surfaces. The gentleman’s servant jumped forward and threw open the carriage door. The gentleman continued to hold her hand until she had seated herself.

She wanted to turn, to see her mother and father one last time, but worried about her composure. She did not turn. She placed her hands on her knees, sat up straight, and fixed the soft smile on her face like her mother had taught her.

The gentleman seated himself next to her. The carriage pulled away. Aurelia did not once look back.

_______________________

10 comments:

Charity Bradford said...

Hey Rosie! We're up and running. You said you struggled with short story, but I thought this was good. Your MC Aurelia has a definite personality and the story flows well.

Some of the things I liked best--
1. I'm assuming she is youngish (teens) and her thought processes felt natural as well as her motivations for accepting the arranged marriage. I also liked that the marriage didn't feel menacing, but still mysterious.

2. The relationship with her parents and how formal they treated her was nicely juxtaposed with the relationship she had with her sister. That conversation was my favorite of the whole story.

Areas that could be tightened:
This was hard because your writing is pretty solid.
1. It did bug me that the gentleman never got a name. They were married so I think he should have a name.

2. There were places where you used all short sentences and so it felt a bit disjointed? I think that's the best phrase. for instance toward the bottom the paragraph starting with "The gentleman offered his hand." You may want to vary the sentence length for a more natural flow. Short and choppy makes it feel urgent, but the words didn't really make me think urgent.

Hope that helps!

Jules said...

I offer no critique, just a hillbilly remember. Just here to offer support and say thanks for the wonderful story. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Anonymous said...

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I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

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BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

Myne Whitman said...

First off, thanks for this blogfest, it made me finish a short story I had been working on for the longest.

I loved this story and agree with most of Charity's comments. Except the short sentences actually worked for me. I usually find it hard to work dialogue into shorts but you did it very well here. I'm taking notes.

Carol Riggs said...

Yay, you posted it! What a fun short story blogfest; too bad I don't have a short story to try it out. :) I'll have fun reading the entries, tho.

Shelli said...

I like the air of mystery surrounding the gentleman. There aren't any hints that he isn't a good person, so I don't feel worry for the girl. The mustache makes me think the far away country is America.

I also liked the portrayal of Aurelia and her family relations. It doesn't sound like she's being sold off, but that she's being given an opportunity that would help everyone.

The one thing that confused me a little is that the setting isn't well-defined. They have the ceremony, then he tells her they have to leave, and then it seems she's at home? I would have thought she'd have joined him immediately after the wedding. I know there's not a lot of room to go into detail with a short story, but maybe some phrases to help ground it.

Jane Isfeld Still said...

Thanks for doing this blogfest it is the first one I have ever done.
I write short humorous stories and have had two books published so I am assuming that this story is part of a book. If not it SHOULD be
and I want to read it NOW!! Immediately!!Loved everything about the story. If it is not a book I want to know where the man is from. It made me almost cry. Sorry I cannot offer any critique except write the book.One more thing I LOVED how we found out about the family. Excellent work.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I loved the flow of the writing and the voice. I would have appreciated a little more setting (of their space and the time)and a name that was hard to pronounce ;)
It read as an opening to something much longer. Good luck it, if you decide to write on. :)

HowLynnTime said...

I like the contrast between what she wants to do and what she does - will she one day wish for that last glance of her parents....that was wonderful.

DEZMOND said...

I actually liked the story, Rosie ;)

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